Dire Flooding Halts Operations at Three Brazilian Ports

An aerial view of flooding and submerged trees
Updated Published

Devastating floods in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, have resulted in the deaths of at least 85 individuals and disrupted major transportation and industrial operations across the state. The Civil Defense reports that over 19,000 people are now homeless and approximately 150,000 have been displaced across nearly 350 municipalities, with more than 130 individuals still missing.

Inchcape Shipping Services has announced the complete shutdown of operations at the ports of Porto Alegre, Rio Grande, and Tramandai due to the severe flooding, which has also inundated Porto Alegre, the state capital, raising river levels by five meters above normal. The city’s Salgado Filho International Airport has been flooded as well, halting all air traffic and affecting crew changes for the maritime sector.

The flooding has led to widespread disruptions, including the cessation of transport links and energy supplies. Last week, the 14 de Julho hydroelectric plant on the Antas River suffered a dam breach, prompting the operating company, Companhia Energetica Rio das Antas, to execute an emergency evacuation plan on May 1.

Several companies have had to adjust operations due to the floods. Gerdau has paused production at two mills to focus on safety, Rumo logistics has partially halted activities, and Braskem has shut down its Triunfo petrochemical complex as a precaution, affecting its production of basic petrochemicals, polyethylene, and polypropylene.

The region has experienced extreme rainfall since April 27, with some areas receiving over 300 mm in less than a week. Bento Gonçalves recorded 543.4 mm, and Porto Alegre received 258.6 mm in just three days, an amount typically expected over two months.

In response to the extensive damage, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has proposed that Congress recognize a state of public calamity to facilitate emergency government spending beyond the fiscal limits set last year.

These recent floods evoke memories of the 2015 disaster when a dam collapse at an iron ore mine operated by Samarco—a joint venture of Vale and BHP—killed 19 people and devastated numerous towns. Following this recent event, Vale and BHP have offered a nearly $25 billion settlement for the damages from the 2015 incident.